Rueben Vijaratnam
Jul 18, 2023

Marketers are too complacent about the cookie apocalypse: What needs to happen now?

Much has been said, discussed and written about the internet’s ‘cookieless future’ and what marketers need to be prepared for. So, why are they still not prepared for a world without cookies, asks Quantcast's Rueben Vijaratnam.

Marketers are too complacent about the cookie apocalypse: What needs to happen now?

It’s startling to read in an Adobe study that 52% of APAC marketers still spend at least half their budgets on cookie-based activations, while eight in 10 (79%) plan to increase spending in 2023.

The study revealed contradictory opinions from marketers – with more than half (56%) believing that the end of cookies will “devastate’ and “significantly harm” their business, yet there is a perceived lack of urgency and a vast majority – 81% - rely on cookie-based campaigns because they are effective.

While the findings are alarming, they are not surprising.

Marketers are approaching the post-cookie reality with complacency, primarily fuelled by the fact that the Chrome browser (which still enables third-party cookies) has over 73% share of usage in Asia as of 2023. Because the majority of the APAC region still largely relies on the cookie-enabled browser, coupled with the fact that the deadline for the demise of third-party cookies has shifted a few times, it is understandable that marketers have deprioritised cookieless solutions.

As with all changes through technological advancement, there tends to be a period of resistance before action is taken. We are living in constantly evolving times, and it is always more accessible (and often less risky) for businesses to follow an established framework rather than working through uncharted territories, all whilst dealing with everything else that’s demanding their attention. 

Marketers must recognise now that third-party cookies will disappear at some point in the not-too-distant future. And the revenue that could be lost at that point, without a plan to accurately advertise and measure the impact of cookieless marketing efforts, is significant.  

To illustrate this, Firefox offers Total Cookie Protection, protecting users against tracking scripts such as cross-site cookies and crypto miners. Chrome currently has the most users globally. However, research has shown that up to 40% of internet users delete cookies from their devices. This may be US-specific, but even conservatively, we estimate this to be about 15-20% for APAC. 

Considering this, and the fact that over 50% of consumers are already browsing in a cookieless way, marketers are looking at a significant loss of their most valuable, digitally savvy customers by not engaging them in cookieless environments.

To be clear here, we’re talking about third-party cookies. First-party cookies (which are not going away) are essential to retain. Third-party cookies send browsing data to multiple other third parties (hence the name) partners who will then use that data for ad targeting, even if the user does not want a relationship with a particular brand. From a brand’s perspective, this experience can alienate consumers.

From a user’s perspective, browsing privacy is essential in taking some of that power back. And from an industry standpoint, the importance of this movement is that tech vendors that depend on reaching internet users with third-party cookies will now be hard-pressed to monetise what they know about consumer behaviour.

The demise of third-party cookies is a pivotal development in our digital world. It increases confidence in browsing, allows consumers to be served advertising messages they want, and allows businesses to create better relationships with their consumers.

There are a few things that marketers can control right now, however, to make the inevitable transition easier:

Get users' first-party or zero-party data (data with consent to use).

Done right, this is valuable. Some marketers are divesting from marketplaces to owning their e-commerce sites, while others are creating campaigns specifically to obtain consented first-party data where possible, such as via competitions on social media. What works for your brand might differ from others, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. Go with what you know resonates more with your audience.

Change your media strategy and reduce your dependency on retargeting.

This will require a shift in measuring success from marketing campaigns. For example, with a smaller retargeting pool, you need more prospecting (showing ads to new people who are most likely to engage with your brand), which means your ad frequency will likely increase with your cost-per-acquisition. 

Marketers embracing the value of a complete funnel strategy are bringing in record revenues. While cookieless performance technologies exist (see more below), your brand can still reach audiences with strong communications through inherently cookieless strategies such as Connected TV (CTV), Digital Out of Home (DOOH) and audio.

Test out partners with cookieless advertising technologies.

A test-and-learn approach can help you understand early what you’ll be able to achieve by advertising in cookieless environments and provides an idea of how much revenue you might be missing out on by sticking to advertising only within cookies-based browsers. Data clean rooms can also protect user privacy, providing advertisers with non-personally identifiable information (non-PII) to target a specific demographic and for audience measurement.

Of course, measurement is intrinsic to technological advancement in digital advertising. If the incumbents in the market cannot track cookieless correctly or efficiently, businesses must look to alternative players who can. 

Brands with an ecommerce or order fulfilment site can leverage their data to directly measure the raw number of average orders coming in, even if the attribution model is imperfect. 

What is most important to remember is that clickers are not necessarily your customers. Brands must understand what metrics will matter to their businesses and create the internal structures to measure those metrics rather than the easiest ones.

Getting ahead of the game may mean the difference between success and failure for brands. So start testing and learning now - the longer you wait, the more you might lose out on later. 


Rueben Vijaratnam is the commercial director for Asia at Quantcast.

 

Source:
Campaign Asia

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